Could Dental Therapists Help Bridge the Oral Health Gap in New York?

Times Union

ALBANY — Last summer, the calls started coming into Saratoga Springs Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner’s district office.Woerner said she was curious about the sudden spike in constituents who said they couldn’t find dental care for themselves or family members.“There’s a decided lack of dentists whose practice will include Medicaid patients,” Woerner said. “For example, in my district, it is only the Saratoga Community Health Center, which is run by the hospital. They have one dentist and two hygienists and that’s it for the entire population.”

Across the state, soaring Medicaid rates are bringing into sharp focus the scarcity of dental care options for low- and middle-income people on public health insurance…

…At one safety-net provider in Minnesota, clinicians, administrators and patients overwhelmingly reported positive experiences with the dental therapy workforce, according to a study by Oral Health Workforce Research Center at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health.

A review of dental claims data revealed that by leaning on dental therapists, dentists were freed up to provide a higher level of service, wait times for care decreased and patients had more of their dental needs met per visit.

“It’s pretty obvious that it’s quite positive and you want to say to people, ‘Gee, what are you waiting for? ‘ ” research center director Jean Moore told the Times Union. “But the resistance from organized dentistry at times can be pretty daunting.”

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